why do fragrances get discontinued top 11 reasons featured image

why do fragrances get discontinued? top 11 reasons

Ah, the mysterious world of fragrances! As consumers, we often fall in love with a particular scent only to find it disappearing from the shelves one day. We’re left wondering, why did our favorite fragrance get discontinued? If you’ve ever pondered over this question or are simply intrigued by the inner workings of the perfume industry, you’ve landed at the right place. In this article, we will demystify this subject and dive into the top 11 reasons why fragrances get discontinued.

1. The Evolution of Consumer Preferences

Every era brings with it a new scent trend. Just as fashion and music tastes evolve, so do fragrance preferences. In the ’80s, powerful, opulent scents like Dior’s Poison ruled the perfume counter. The ‘90s, however, saw a turn towards clean, minimalist scents, like CK One. When consumer preferences shift, it can spell the end for a fragrance that doesn’t fit the current trend.

Consider Giorgio Beverly Hills, an iconic perfume of the ’80s. It was a dazzling, unapologetic floral blend that was everywhere during its heyday. But as the trend shifted towards less aggressive scents, Giorgio’s popularity waned, leading to its eventual discontinuation. This shows how a scent that falls out of favor with consumers can struggle to survive in a rapidly changing market.

2. Skyrocketing Production Costs

Fragrances aren’t just about smell; they’re a combination of artistry, chemistry, and economics. It’s not cheap to produce a fragrance. The cost includes raw materials, packaging, marketing, and much more. If the cost to produce a fragrance exceeds its sales revenue, it’s often easier for a company to discontinue the perfume.

Take for instance the story of Jean Patou’s Joy perfume. Dubbed the ‘most expensive perfume in the world’, it was crafted using a large quantity of high-quality ingredients, including a whopping 10,000 jasmine flowers and 28 dozen roses to produce just 30ml of perfume. As costs of these ingredients rose, so did the price of Joy, eventually leading to its discontinuation and reformulation.

3. Ingredient Unavailability

Scents are complex creations, composed of numerous ingredients, which can sometimes become difficult to source. If a crucial ingredient becomes unavailable due to environmental changes, overharvesting, or trade restrictions, it might lead to the fragrance being discontinued.

Case in point, the prized ingredient ‘ambergris’, a substance produced in the digestive system of sperm whales, used in many high-end fragrances. It became increasingly hard to source due to legal and ethical concerns, forcing perfumers to discontinue or reformulate certain fragrances.

4. Stricter Industry Regulations

The fragrance industry, like any other, is subject to laws and regulations, which are designed to ensure consumer safety. For example, the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) sets guidelines on ingredient usage. If a fragrance is found to violate these regulations, it may be discontinued.

Oakmoss, a popular ingredient in many vintage perfumes, was heavily restricted by IFRA due to potential allergy concerns. This led to the discontinuation of several fragrances that featured oakmoss prominently, as reformulation wasn’t always possible without drastically changing the scent profile.

5. Brand Image Revamp

Brands, like the people who love them, evolve over time. Their narratives, aesthetics, and target demographics may shift as they adapt to changing trends, tastes, and business strategies. This evolution often prompts a review of their product lines, and inevitably, some products fall out of alignment with the new brand identity. This is especially true in the world of perfumery, where a fragrance can embody the spirit of a brand’s specific era.

When a fragrance no longer resonates with a brand’s image, it often faces discontinuation. For instance, let’s take the journey of the fashion house Prada. Prada’s scent library is as nuanced and diverse as its celebrated runway collections. Yet, as the brand redefined its fashion narrative to cater to a younger, more contemporary demographic, it found that several of its fragrances, especially those that echoed an older aesthetic, no longer fit in. As a result, they opted to discontinue certain fragrances. This decision was not about the quality or popularity of the scents themselves, but rather about maintaining a consistent brand image that was easily recognizable and relatable to their evolving audience.

6. Poor Sales Performance

The fragrance industry is, at its core, a business. While the creation of perfumes is an art, their survival in the market hinges on numbers. It is an unfortunate reality that not every fragrance will capture the hearts (and wallets) of consumers. When a perfume performs poorly in terms of sales, companies often face a hard decision: should they invest more in marketing the fragrance in hopes of improving its performance, or should they cut their losses and discontinue the fragrance?

This was the fate that befell Gucci’s Envy, a fragrance beloved by many in the late ’90s and early 2000s. Despite its unique, ahead-of-its-time green floral scent profile and a dedicated fan base, Envy couldn’t manage to hit the sales numbers that Gucci expected. Over time, it became clear that the cost of producing and marketing Envy outweighed its sales revenue, leading to the decision to discontinue it. Today, Envy is remembered fondly by fragrance enthusiasts who lament its disappearance from store shelves, yet its story serves as a reminder that poor sales can doom even the most enchanting scents.

7. Seasonal and Limited Edition Fragrances

The world of fragrance isn’t immune to the allure of exclusivity and the excitement of limited editions. Fragrance houses often release seasonal or limited edition fragrances to mark a special occasion, capitalize on a trend, or simply inject novelty into their line. By nature, these scents aren’t meant to stick around forever. They’re the shooting stars of the perfume galaxy – brilliant in their moment, but destined to fade away.

Consider Estee Lauder’s Bronze Goddess, a fragrance that’s released each summer. This scent, with its alluring blend of creamy coconut, warm amber, and a hint of juicy citrus, perfectly encapsulates the essence of a sun-drenched beach holiday. However, as a seasonal scent, it’s only available for a few months each year, making it a fleeting pleasure for its fans. While Bronze Goddess is reintroduced every year, some limited edition fragrances don’t have this recurrent lifespan and are only produced once, making them prized possessions for perfume collectors.

8. Reformulation Challenges

The art and science of perfumery are often a delicate balance. When a crucial ingredient becomes unavailable, or a formula needs to be changed due to regulations or other factors, perfumers face the challenge of reformulation. However, changing a single note in a complex fragrance composition can significantly alter the final scent. Sometimes, a successful reformulation isn’t possible, leading to the perfume’s discontinuation.

A clear example of this is the iconic Dior perfume, Diorissimo, which was renowned for its exquisite lily of the valley scent. When regulations limited the use of a key molecule used to create the lily of the valley note, Dior struggled to reformulate Diorissimo without losing its distinctive character. Despite their best efforts, the reformulated version failed to capture the charm of the original, leading to a decline in sales and the eventual discontinuation of the perfume.

9. Market Saturation and Competition

The fragrance market is as crowded and competitive as it’s ever been. With numerous new releases each year from designer houses, niche perfumers, and celebrity brands, standing out and maintaining consumer interest is challenging. A fragrance, however well-crafted, can become lost in this sea of scents and end up being discontinued due to underwhelming market performance.

An illustrative case is the now-discontinued perfume Fendi Theorema. Released in the late ’90s, Theorema was a warm, oriental fragrance that earned high praise from those who discovered it. However, it was launched during a time when the market was inundated with new perfumes. Amidst the competition, Theorema struggled to gain visibility and attract a substantial customer base, leading to disappointing sales and its subsequent discontinuation.

10. Shifts in Marketing Strategy

Marketing is a significant driving force in the fragrance industry. The way a scent is advertised – the emotions, lifestyles, or aspirational identities it’s associated with – can greatly influence its success. When a brand changes its marketing strategy, it may decide to discontinue fragrances that don’t fit into the new narrative.

Consider Yves Saint Laurent’s perfume M7. Launched in 2002, M7 was a daring, ahead-of-its-time fragrance featuring a strong oud note. The marketing campaign, too, was bold and provocative. However, it didn’t resonate with the consumer base at the time, leading to poor sales. When YSL decided to shift their marketing strategy to align with a more mainstream aesthetic, M7 was discontinued as it didn’t fit the brand’s new narrative.

11. Intellectual Property Issues

Intellectual property plays a critical role in the creation of fragrances. Perfume compositions are often protected by trade secret laws. However, disputes over these trade secrets, or over trademark issues related to the perfume’s name or packaging, can lead to a fragrance being discontinued.

One famous case involved the perfume house Creed and its fragrance Green Irish Tweed. When a similar fragrance was released by a different company, it led to a legal dispute over the rights to the fragrance composition. While Green Irish Tweed wasn’t discontinued, this case illustrates how intellectual property disputes can potentially lead to discontinuations in the complex world of perfumery.


From changing trends and skyrocketing production costs to stricter regulations and beyond, the reasons why fragrances get discontinued are as diverse as the scents themselves. It’s a delicate balance between art, science, and business. But one thing is certain, the world of perfumery is always evolving, bringing new fragrant experiences our way. While it’s always sad to bid farewell to a favorite scent, remember that every end marks a new beginning, potentially a new fragrance that could become your next favorite!

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